OSI approves two Microsoft shared-source licenses

The OSI has approved two of Microsoft's Shared Source licenses as viable open-source licenses.

However, this does not mean the process went entirely smooth. While Microsoft was cooperative and asked for no special treatment during the process, the OSI had to field about 400 e-mails from community members about the decision to let the company's licenses go through the approval process, Tiemann said. And the OSI already is experiencing backlash from open-source proponents that are not happy with the approval of MPL and MRL.

"I've received three e-mails in the last hour from people who say, 'To heck with the OSI, you guys are just now pawns in Microsoft's game ... you have made a deal with the devil," he said. However, Tiemann believes the OSI had a responsibility to be fair and impartial in letting Microsoft submit its licenses.

"What would you think of a club that would say, 'We won't take any members that come from the city of Chicago, even if two people in Chicago meet the criteria for entry?'" he posited. "We said from the outset that we would be fair and, to be honest, some people said, 'No, you don't.'"

Microsoft has shown itself to be more cooperative with the open-source community, even launching recently an open-source Web site devoted to educating the community about its initiatives in this area and to showing how its proprietary technology can work with open-source software.

At the same time, however, company executives have been making bold claims about how much Microsoft intellectual property is contained in open-source software like Linux, and threatened to collect royalties on patents it owns in that software. These claims are widely viewed as a way to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt among customers looking to adopt open-source software as an alternative to Microsoft products.

Tiemann said it remains to be seen if any companies other than Microsoft will license code under MPL or MRL. However, he said if Microsoft plans to embed patented technology in software licensed under an OSI-approved license and "call it open source" -- as some open-source proponents fear -- they had better think twice.

"If there is some experimentation on their side to see whether or not they can produce royalty-bearing open-source code, I think they'll see that 400 messages is just the beginning," Tiemann said.

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Elizabeth Montalbano

IDG News Service

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